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Food Safety Research Consortium: Development and Application of Molecular Subtyping Data to Support Risk Based Control Strategies for Salmonella and Listeria Monocytogenes


The overall goal of the New York Food Safety Research Consortium (FSRC) is to conduct and coordinate food safety research that provides critical new knowledge on foodborne pathogens and leads to the development of new and innovative food safety tools and intervention strategies. <P>
We propose to use 2010 funds supporting the FSRC to (i) further expand and maintain a comprehensive foodborne pathogen subtype database ( with a particular focus on L. monocytogenes and Salmonella, (ii) perform field and subtyping studies to allow for the development of risk assessments and risk-based control strategies for L. monocytogenes, with a focus on transmission at retail, and (iii) develop and validate molecular serotyping and subtyping approaches for Salmonella. <P>While, overall, these efforts will provide improved tools for source tracking and source attribution and provide knowledge needed for science-based farm-to-table control of these foodborne pathogens, a specific focus of this project is on developing methods and data needed to classify foodborne pathogens into subtype groups that differ in their public health impact. <P>Continued support and expansion of the PathogenTracker strain collection and database, which provides a unique food safety resource, remains a core activity of the FSRC. Isolates available through this collection are widely distributed to researchers in academia, industry, and government and provide standardized foodborne pathogen strain sets for the development and evaluation of detection and subtyping methods, for foodborne pathogen evolution and ecology research, and for development of intervention strategies. Consequently, a specific component of this proposal is to continue to expand, develop, and maintain the PathogenTracker strain collection and database.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: A study published in 1999 estimated that 76 million cases of gastrointestinal foodborne illnesses occur in the US on an annual basis, resulting in at least 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. While subsequent data indicated that the incidence of human listeriosis and selected other foodborne disease decreased since these initial estimates, 2008 and 2009 data indicate no further declines in foodborne illness frequencies. In particular, the incidence of human Salmonella infections appears to not have decreased significantly since 1999. Thus, foodborne illnesses and their medical sequelae continue to have a significant negative impact on human health and well being. To track and control sources of foodborne pathogens, agricultural and food industries have a critical need for access to advanced molecular and genetics based tools, including future employees trained in the use of these tools. The overall goal of this project is to assure access to these advanced tools, by the food and meat industries to aid in their efforts to control foodborne pathogens. Thus, one of the goals of this project is the further development and expansion of a WWW-based publicly available DNA subtype database for microorganisms causing foodborne illnesses. Further goals of this project include applications of this database to (i) understand Listeria transmission at retail, (ii) develop improved "DNA fingerprinting" methods for foodborne pathogens, particularly for Salmonella, (iii) help detect foodborne disease outbreaks and outbreak sources, (iv) broadly, develop a better under-standing of the transmission, and evolution of foodborne pathogens, (v) define specific bacterial subtypes that differ in their ability to cause foodborne disease, and (vi) provide scientific information that can be used to enhance risk assessments for foodborne illnesses. Efforts (iii) through (vi) specifically focus on the foodborne pathogens L. monocytogenes and Salmonella. L. monocytogenes causes about 2,500 human foodborne listeriosis cases and 500 deaths annually in the US and has been commonly found in many different environments. This foodborne pathogen thus represents a considerable concern, not only due to its ability to cause severe human disease, but also because contamination of Ready-To-Eat food products with this organism is not uncommon. Recalls due to the presence of L. monocytogenes are thus not uncommon and both, human listeriosis cases and costly recalls, place a significant financial and emotional toll in the US population and national economy. Salmonella causes an estimated 1.4 million cases of foodborne disease annually in the US, including approximately 550 deaths. L. monocytogenes and Salmonella combined thus cause approx. 1,050 foodborne deaths annually in the US, out of an estimated total 1,800 deaths due to known foodborne pathogens.

APPROACH: Obj. 1. Perform longitudinal and retrospective studies on L. monocytogenes transmission at retail, including molecular characterization of L. monocytogenes isolates. <P>Obj. 2. Develop, validate, and compare rapid molecular methods for Salmonella serotyping and develop data on transmission and virulence differences among Salmonella serotypes <P>Obj. 3. Continue comprehensive collection as well as molecular and phenotypic characterization of human, food, and animal isolates of Salmonella. <P>Obj. 4. Continue comprehensive collection as well as molecular and phenotypic characterization of human, food, and animal isolates of L. monocytogenes. <P>Obj. 5. Enhance and maintain the PathogenTracker database, including development of improved data analysis tools and user interfaces, and distribution of strains and isolates.

Wiedmann, Martin
Cornell University
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